Outdoor Bouldering in Penang : Durian Valley

Filmed and edited by Azlinda Amin

A previously undiscovered outdoor boulder paradise in the tropical heart of Teluk Bahang, with hundreds of boulders blanketing the landscape as far as the eye can see”

Durian Valley Boudering Site, section Stairway to Heaven. Photo: Fahmi Tahar

The Beginning

Prior to Team Climb’O’Dachi’s arrival to Penang for our climbing trip on 26th to 29th September 2019, we collaborated with our friends from HangOut Climbing Gym, to recce for us suitable bouldering sites here in Penang.

Led by HangOut’s owner Ben Shyen and his team of climbers, they drove around the island of Penang, feeding us with pictures of several small bouldering sites, of which were unworthy of our time to climb there.

After two weeks of searching on the roads and even on Google satellite maps, they came across a vast field of boulders located on the far side of the island. Under the hazy weather conditions, they drove nearly 40 minutes to a plantation where they were greeted by a vast field of large boulders spread across the hillside.

We still remember the look on our faces when Ben drove us into the plantation and saw the field of boulders under the clear sky that weekend. This could possibly be the largest boulder site in Peninsula Malaysia. It was truly breathtaking.

Amazingly when we first arrived in Penang, we were truly blessed with clear skies as the rain started pouring in the days before, clearing up the choking haze that blanketed the island for weeks.

While located on a private land, we managed to gain access to roam around and climb all sorts of boulders we could lay our hands on. With 40 hectares of land as quoted by the land owner, we only managed to touch less than 3% of the boulders there.

Team Climb’O’Dachi on Top of the World Boulder. Photo: Fahmi Tahar

The Climbs

Wasting no time at all, the team spread out with all the crash pads we have brought, and started sending routes on boulders within our reach. For a place with no documented sends, it was a First Ascent frenzy for everyone.

Ranging from V0 to V5 as what we have found so far, the routes were very fun and challenging at the same time. Some of which require the presence of the entire team, just for the send.

As the boulders are all resting on the hillside, a lot of precautions are to take note. The following are the 3 major precautions.

  • Check ground for holes and hidden dangers that can cause injury
  • Risk assess all climbs to ensure enough Crash Pads and Spotters (One V3 route took 4 Pads and 6 Spotters)
  • Clear off loose rocks and vegetation before climbing
Team Climb’O’Dachi Penang x HangOut, Photo: Fahmi Tahar

The Team

Fortunately for us, our Climb’O’Dachi x HangOut climbing team consists of a Doctor and a Nurse with a trauma kit in hand just in case.

We had a couple of close calls, but nonetheless its always better to have a fully trained medical staff standing by as help do take time to arrive on these parts of the island.


The Sends

Our proudest sends were made by a couple of team members, of whom have first ascent a couple of the most daring routes in the valley.

V5 Climb’O’Dachi

Located on the Main Event boulder, this route has been attempted by our local friends several times. A route for the most daring climbers. Several crash pads and a couple of spotters are required at the very least.

V5 Climb’O’Dachi, FA by Ronald Yeung
Photo: Fahmi Tahar

V3 Trust, FA by Daryl Fun
Photo: Azlinda Amin

V3 Trust

Located on the Cresent Boulder by the roadside, this boulder stands at nearly 6 metres tall, with the route goes nearly 2 thirds of the way up. A full compliment of spotters and crash pads standing by as the fall intimidates most of the team just by its height.

While the team and the climbing community applaud these two brave young men for their first ascents. We would also like to note some of the FA’s made by the other team members.

Stairway to Heaven Boulder Field
1. Crescent Boulder
– Crescent Traverse, V0 (FA: Jacob)
– Crescent Moon, V0 (FA: Ben)
– Trust, V3 (FA: Daryl)

2. Commitment Boulder
– Zero Commitment, V0 (FA: Ning)
– Commitment Issues, V2 (FA: Jacob)
– It’s Complicated, V2 (FA: Jacob)

3. Main Event Boulder
– Sideshow, V3 (FA: Jacob Dean)
– Climb’O’Dachi, V5 (FA: Ronald Yeung)

4. Top of the World Boulder
– The Lion King Approach, V0 (FA: Fahmi)
– Lion’s Back, V1 (FA: Firman)

5. Termite Boulder
– Easy Termite, V0 (FA: Firman)
– Medium Termite, V1 (FA: Hamizan)

Highway to Hell Boulder Field
– Popsicle, V1 (FA: Ning)
– Head over Heel, V1 (FA: Ben)
– Thunderstruck, V2 (FA: Ben)

View of V0 Lion King Approach, Top of the World Boulder
Photo: Fahmi Tahar

With our limited time on site and the monsoon weather arrives in the early afternoon, we managed to send nearly a dozen routes. Overall its one place the team is looking forward to visit again real soon.


The Beta

Upon conclusion of our trip to Penang, we spent no expense in time to update the betas of the routes that have sent so far. Using one of the popular online guides, theCrag, we have updated and even uploaded Topos of the boulders and routes for all climbers.

Link to the online guide
https://www.thecrag.com/climbing/malaysia/area/2758817295


The Approach

Located within an hour’s drive from the airport or HangOut Climbing Gym, the site sits on Durian in Love Estate. Upon entering at the roundabout, keep left at the fork where the entrance to Boulder Valley Glamping is on the right.
Click here for link to Google Maps

As Durian Valley Bouldering Site sits on private land, we seek all climbers to respect the owner’s wishes of not trespassing. All climbers are welcomed at a small fee to the plantation, along with advance notification, days prior to arrival.

As of this moment, HangOut Climbing Gym is currently acting as the focal contact person with the plantation owner, and all Durian Valley entry fees collected by the gym will be directed to the plantation itself.

Navigating around the plantation requires some light to moderate trekking. While there is a concrete path that runs around the plantation, some however, depending on the location of the boulders, you may require to down trek steep steps to get to the location. Prepare hiking stick for those whom may have difficulty in balancing themselves.

Cresent Boulder, Photo: Azlinda Amin

Climber’s Note

If you intend to go on your own, but do not want to lug around a huge crashpad through the airport, then HangOut does provide gear rental of crashpads. Rental of ropes and even quickdraws for sport climbing at Jesselton Park should that be part of your climbing itinerary.

And as a gentle reminder, please do liaise with HangOut Climbing Gym, or us at Climb’O’Dachi of your travel plans to Durian Valley to ensure smooth entry to the site. While no monetary fee goes to either of us but the land owner, a bit of etiquette in notification goes a long way to ensure access to the valley for the long run.


Accommodations in Penang

Here are a few different accommodation options as recommended by Ben Shyen: (Extracted from his Facebook post)
Click Here for the Original Facebook Post

1. πΆπ‘Žπ‘šπ‘π‘–π‘›π‘” π‘œπ‘›-𝑠𝑖𝑑𝑒
We are very excited to have successfully negotiated with the owner to allow groups to camp overnight AND to start a campfire. There is also a brick and mortar house overseeing the site which is currently used to store farming equipment but most importantly has a basic toilet and shower. Throughout the land, there are many suitable campsites that offers gorgeous views of the valley and the Teluk Bahang Dam. The owner requests a small fee for camping overnight and hopes that all climbers will pick up after themselves and maintain the cleanliness of the area.

2. π‘†π‘‘π‘Žπ‘¦π‘–π‘›π‘” π‘Žπ‘‘ π»π‘Žπ‘›π‘”π‘‚π‘’π‘‘ πΆπ‘™π‘–π‘šπ‘π‘–π‘›π‘” πΊπ‘¦π‘š (40 minutes drive)
The inaugural climbing group from Singapore that we brought, Climb’O’Dachi, opted to stay overnight at our gym and their leader Fahmi Tahar expressed that their 12-member party was very comfortable with the ‘homelike’ atmosphere of HangOut. The fee that we charged per pax was lesser than most hostel or boutique hotel rates in Georgetown. Furthermore, the fee also includes unlimited climbing overnight for the entire group and they thoroughly enjoyed the camaraderie of having the entire gym to themselves!

3. π΅π‘œπ‘’π‘™π‘‘π‘’π‘Ÿ π‘‰π‘Žπ‘™π‘™π‘’π‘¦ πΊπ‘™π‘Žπ‘šπ‘π‘–π‘›π‘” (2 minutes drive)
We initially recce’d this site for suitable boulders and we were amazed at the beautiful accommodations they offered while still preserving the beauty of the surrounding natural habitat. While there are a few beautiful boulders at this site, they are largely unsuitable for climbing as most of them are featureless. If your group has a bit more money to spend, Boulder Valley might provide a unique experience staying in the rainforest but not sacrificing on all the modern luxuries such as air-conditioning, plush linens and an Internet connection.

4. π‘‰π‘Žπ‘Ÿπ‘–π‘œπ‘’π‘  π»π‘œπ‘šπ‘’π‘ π‘‘π‘Žπ‘¦π‘  π‘Žπ‘‘ π΅π‘Žπ‘™π‘–π‘˜ π‘ƒπ‘’π‘™π‘Žπ‘’ (15 minutes drive)
As we drove pass the small township of Balik Pulau to our destination, we observed many types of homestays on offer, from kampung type accommodations to bungalows for big groups. The town itself has restaurants aplenty (both halal and non-halal) with small petrol filling stations, convenience stores and everything you’d expect from a small, humble community.

5. π»π‘œπ‘‘π‘’π‘™ πΈπ‘žπ‘’π‘Žπ‘‘π‘œπ‘Ÿπ‘–π‘Žπ‘™ π‘ƒπ‘’π‘›π‘Žπ‘›π‘” (30 minutes drive)
This 5-star hotel is conveniently located at Bukit Jambul and is the closest luxury hotel to the bouldering site. Known for its lavish rooms and exquisite restaurants, this option may just appeal to those climbers who wish to pamper themselves after a fulfilling day of pulling on rock.